Regardless of my circumstances––time of day, location, mood––Lauren Clark's "I See Jeff Daniels In The Street" makes me tear up every time I read it. A meditation on mistaking the beloved character actor for one's dead father, the poem exemplifies the astonishing, devastating power of Clark’s debut. In line after line, they delve into the unsettling spaces where tenderness and violence overlap, where grief is never overcome but recast, where love's promises often fall short but sometimes, mercifully, fulfill themselves. More than enough material for most, but Clark makes room for plenty else: Greek mythology, Kim Kardashian, Wild Bill Hickok, Eric Clapton. "I know things," Clark writes, "that could crack hearts open like coconuts." Believe them.
— From Sam
Winner of the 2016 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry
Lauren Clark’s poems move lucidly, depicting beautiful struggles of distrust, dream, grief, and intimacy. They show such conflicts through entrancing narrative drive and song-like abandon. In their unpredictable, unforgettable language, they make pain a tonic for pleasure, sorrow ground for revelation. This is a book that is celebratory, gentle, and queer.
About the Author
Lauren Clark’s poems have appeared in FIELD, Ninth Letter, the Offing, and many other journals. They earned an MFA from the University of Michigan, where they won four of five categories of the university’s prestigious Hopwood Awards. They have been the recipient of scholarships from the New York State Summer Writers Institute and the Sewanee Writers Conference. They work as program and development coordinator at Poets House in New York City and collaborate with Etc. Gallery in Chicago.
"In this dreamlike debut, Clark seeks the impossible ritual—a conditional that could never be fulfilled, the one 'in which metaphor stops being habit/ and becomes real.' Searching for that transformational power, the poems uncover a newly emergent self. Clark’s central metaphor is an otherworldly, logic-defying, fragmented ceremony that shifts from wedding to funeral and back, replete with rites that are both hopeful and abnegating. . . . Despite the elusive and impermanent nature of the book’s setting, the body (“the unlearnable instrument is/ the body attached to us”) remains remarkably present and its beating heart is what grounds the collection and lets the reader travel along. Clark manages to be both optimistic and mournful at once; their writing embodies a complete experience."
“Lauren Clark’s imagination is, paradoxically, both torrential and discriminating. Their writing is forceful and self-delighting yet minutely attentive to the world’s particulars. They deploy in these stunning poems the maximum amount of intellectual power consistent with a delicacy of perception, subtle sonic and rhetorical modulations, and emotional honesty and vulnerability. Their poems are a marriage and reconciliation of many if not of all the disparate, contradictory, and opposing elements of our experience.”
—Vijay Seshadri, judge
“Clark’s work is entirely original, but springs out of poetry’s deepest and most ancient inclinations. Lauren establishes a relationship with the invisible and the ineffable, bringing image and language (as if by magic) to the page and to the reader. A poet of extraordinary talent and range, their first book is a collection readers will return to again and again.”
“The poems in Music for a Wedding are runaway trains screaming through landscapes internal and external, visceral and surreal, on their way ‘to the place that is bigger than loss. The place that is big enough to hold every absence.’ Such vivid urgency, its threat and menace! Such pop-dark music! This book is a wild ride.”
“Like a Greek myth, but one in which they play all the parts, Lauren Clark struggles to master their fate in the face of ominous portents. Whether at a wedding in barn, in the tender moment of giving a friend a haircut, passing out drunk on a sidewalk, or traversing the landscape of America in a desperate bid to come to terms with a troubled father, the speaker in these poems refuses fatalism in favor of fashioning their own future. How is it possible to love another against the fact of all the messy and terrible ways there are to fail? In these poems the ordinary turns quickly on its ear becoming first quirky and then terrifying. In the end, they are love poems. And like one of the poets they invoke, Catullus, thier love poems cut both ways.”